Internship Update: Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

July 7, 2011

This is a guest post by Sophie Greene and Henry Neuwirth, who are Haiti Justice Alliance-sponsored interns for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).  Both are students at Carleton College—a sophomore and junior, respectively. They’ll be giving us periodic updates throughout the summer.

Henry Neuwirth (top left) and Sophie Greene (bottom right) with IJDH's director, Brian Concannon (top right) and other friends of IJDH.

IJDH is a non-profit legal organization with a collaborative approach similar to that of the Haiti Justice Alliance. It works extensively with its sister organization in Haiti, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), and many other grassroots partners. What follows is a brief summary of IJDH’s current projects, as well as a discussion of our roles in promoting these efforts.


1.     Prison Project

A joint project with Partner’s in Health, the Prison Project seeks to address the medical and legal needs of Haitian prisoners. They seek to address inhumane prison conditions and rights violations, such as pre-trial detentions, through representing prisoners and advocating system-wide reform.

2.     Rape Accountability and Prevention Project (RAPP)

An IJDH-BAI project, the Rape Accountability and Prevention Project provides know-your-rights training, facilitates women’s rights groups, and assists survivors in navigating the legal system.

3.     Housing Rights Advocacy Project (HRAP)

An IJDH-BAI project to advocate against illegal evictions taking place in Haiti’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. IJDH and BAI defend earthquake victims’ right to emergency housing, with the goal of ensuring adequate alternatives are available before evictions take place.

4.     Haiti Asylum Information Project and Family Reunification Program

An IJDH-BAI project to protect the rights of Haitian immigrants. The Family Reunification Program would grant approved beneficiaries the ability to reunite with their families here in the U.S., expediting the visa waiting process.

5.     Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc) Prosecution

An IJDH-BAI project to bring the former dictator of Haiti to justice for his crimes against humanity.



There’s a lot going on at IJDH-BAI and the interns get to do a lot of important work. I’m a development intern this summer at IJDH, which means that I’ve mostly been doing a lot of writing. For the past three weeks I’ve been writing grants and letters for the organization. Currently, I’m writing a draft of IJDH’s Annual Report, scheduled for mailing in late July. The experience has also let me reflect on the role of writing in my life. Until now all of the writing I’ve ever done has been for myself; I write essays for classes and creative pieces for my own enjoyment. One of the more personally rewarding parts of my internship has been the opportunity to use the skills I’ve learned in an academic setting and utilize them for something of actual importance.

Nevertheless, the most exciting part of the internship has been learning about IJDH-BAI’s work from conversations and emails with Brian and the IJDH-BAI team in Haiti. Most of the writing I’ve done so far has related to the RAPP and HRAP projects. Both projects have responded to the 2010 earthquake with admirable integrity and showcase IJDH-BAI’s commitment to a rights-based approach. You can read more about these two projects at the following links:;



 As a social media intern, I have been mostly working on improving IJDH’s presence online.  I post on Twitter and Facebook, update the website, and send emails to our constituents.  Although I’m not working directly on any of IJDH’s projects, I feel that my work as a messenger of information from our Haiti offices to the general population is an important contribution to IJDH’s mission.

 One project that I have been very involved in recently is the start of an IJDH-BAI podcast.  We hope to get on-the-ground narratives from Haiti to our donors, helping them feel both up-to-date and engaged in IJDH-BAI’s ongoing projects.  You can hear IJDH Director Brian Concannon’s introduction to the podcast here:

The Case for a Justice Perspective: Media Approaches to Haiti

June 26, 2011

Our last post generated some controversy (although folks emailed their thoughts – let’s have public discussions in the comment section instead!). A few have said the tone was too harsh, too one-sided, or too extreme. Because of this, I believe it’s a good time to explain a bit about what informs my perspective on Haiti issues – what we at the Haiti Justice Alliance call a “justice perspective.” Understanding this perspective is essential to understanding the tone, and is intimately linked to the broader goals of this blog.

The need for a justice perspective is made more acute by the predominance of unjust media approaches to Haiti. I’m talking about stories that describe a Haiti without Haitians, or more frequently stories about a Haiti whose only inhabitants are (Haitian) victims waiting to be saved and (foreign) aid agency saviors. For the majority of Americans who are only exposed to Haiti through mainstream news, these portrayals can permanently distort their sense of the country.

I’ll begin by exploring the most common media pitfalls before discussing why a justice perspective is a necessary corrective.

Where are the Haitians?

Most journalists who write about Haiti don’t ask any Haitians what they think. They don’t ask what they think about the relief effort or about NGOs’ work. They certainly don’t ask what they think about USAID or the UN mission,  MINUSTAH.

Take, for instance, NYT Magazine’s feature on Sean Penn and his tent camp. In the words of photojournalist Matt Muspratt, the article “reports from Haiti without featuring any Haitians or Haitian institutions.” 14 individuals are featured, 5 of whom are quoted directly. The only Haitians even mentioned? Former President Préval. President Martelly and his wife. Wyclef Jean. Not exactly the crowd with an informed perspective on life in the tent camps, which the article allegedly discusses.

Read the rest of this entry »

HAITI ON THE WEB: Weekly Links Round-Up

December 17, 2010

Your weekend reading list, courtesy of Haiti Justice Alliance!

Michelle Karshan, director of Alternative Chance*, pens a compelling protest against the US decision to resume deportations to Haiti.

Brian Concannon of IJDH* and Jeena Shah:The US Will Pay for Haitian Vote Fraud.”

Jeb Sprague explores presidential candidate Michael Martelly’s past as a Duvalierist.

Also over at Canada-Haiti Action, a great report entitled, The Impact of US Food Aid on Human Rights in Haiti.” Definitely Worth a look.

What WikiLeaks tells us about Why Washington Won’t Allow Democracy in Haiti.

Finally, the always worthwhile Linda Raftree shares a photo series put together by youth in Croix des Bouquets and Jacmel. As she points out, it can be hard in the US to find depictions of Haiti through Haitian eyes.


* Denotes one of our partner organizations. Look forward to Brian Concannon visiting us in Northfield in February for our Haiti Human Rights Week!